Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Anthropology goes public?

Which sense does it make to transport scientific knowledge to a wider audience? What are public intellectuals? What do public intellectuals do?

As for me, the answer is surprisingly simple: I write Blogs and I publish my (undergrad) work on my u:net website (the University webspace for students in VIE). What happens to me oftentimes is, that people in the subway, in the bus or on the street address me directly (yet, I don´t know why this is so). Today while going to work, an elderly woman blurt out in the subway elevator, she wouldn´t be able to cope with this or that. This happens every day. It became a kind of task of mine to listen and advice.

Blogging, posting to newspaper lists or forum discussions are also a mode to go public. I endorse media work: Perhaps more anthropologists should “come out” in TV debates, like they have them in the ORF – here my question is why the directors or producers would not invite anthropologists for themed discussions on i. e. magic, religion, environment et cetera. I definitely miss this, not personally I, but it seems that only a sample of scientists would be employed by media.

What would public intellectuals attempt to transport in understandable terms and speech? Anthropology is a key science to me and public intellectuality has little to do with theory, I think, but is more a question of comprehensibility and tangibility. Intellectualitiy itself does not run for publicity for some reasons, by portability and inimitability. Scientific language needs information, like vocabulary, well-chosen verbalization and efficient restatements. Only a small percentage of the world population studies and belongs to the academic ivory tower. So academics should think about the dialectics of information translation, I should call it, a. to the academic community and b. for the averagely,  in the sense of acquired knowledge, educated public.

How could academics acquire competencies in communicating verbaly skilled? In my opinion, each student of Anthropology - talking of Social and Cultural Anthropology - should go through psychological tests, like having analyzed structures of personality or psychological disposition. This and the new tenets, i. e. at the University Vienna, for a so-called orchid-like science would help to strengthen its position and status. As a consequence Social and Cultural Anthropology would produce a greater effect on society by generating pools of interest and knowledge of people, about people. The better the training for acceptance and tolerance, the better promotion of democratic assets will mesh.

This short text was inspired by the EAnth mailing list. I hope, that as an undergrad I understood well and produced scientific comment and thought sharing in respect of what I am able to read and learn by participating. The idea of Public Anthropology I found first some two years ago on this site: Public Anthropology.

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